There’s one thing you can say about quarterback Teddy Bridgewater after most of his third training camp, second as a starter.
He’s heard the coaching staff’s message to be more assertive, trust his receivers and, in turn, take more chances. During the Vikings’ annual night practice under the lights at Blakeslee Stadium on Saturday, the full range of results were on display. Here are some snippets from the practice:
TEDDY TAKING SHOTS — If you’ve tried to follow the training camp play-by-play on social media sites or observations posts like these, you’ve probably noticed the pendulum of Bridgewater. One day he’s slinging deep completions to receivers Jarius Wright and Stefon Diggs. The next it’s consecutive interceptions in red-zone drills. Sometimes both extremes surface in the same outing, like during Saturday’s annual night practice. Bridgewater uncorked ~30-yard throws apiece to Diggs and Adam Thielen for completions. His deep shots also drew two pass interference calls, one on cornerback Terence Newman. He peppered the 15 to 20-yard intermediate areas with consecutive finds of rookie Laquon Treadwell in tight coverage. The riskiest success of them all, however, happened first. Ending an opening goal-line session, tight end Kyle Rudolph on a corner route was draped by safety Harrison Smith. Bridgewater took the shot, lofting a pass to his 6-6 target just over the 6-2 defender for a touchdown at the back pylon. The opposite end zone would produce different red-zone results.
X MARKS THE SPOT — For the second time in three practices, Bridgewater’s two-minute drills were thwarted by the hands of fourth-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The pesky defender has stood out as camp presses forward, deflecting three of Bridgewater’s nine throws during the starters’ lone hurry-up drill of the night. Two of those deflections were would-be interceptions — both inside the 20 — had he landed in bounds. The drill ended with another end-zone incompletion in heavy traffic. Red-zone offense has been a point of emphasis for the Vikings, and Bridgewater is seeing highs and lows against a stingy defense: “Everything just happens faster,” he said. “The biggest thing is ball placement, where your guy can get it or it’s an incomplete pass. The room for error is very thin down there.”
PUSH? — Some of these backup running backs have looked shifty behind Adrian Peterson, though that didn’t help at the goal line. With Jerick McKinnon (lower back) sitting out team drills, Jhurell Pressley, C.J. Ham and Kevin Monangai saw additional work. As previously noted, the 5-10 Pressley has had a strong showing early. On Saturday, the 5-8 Monangai, who signed this week, made a cut that froze linebacker Terrance Plummer before speeding untouched around the edge. They stumbled when the space tightened. After Chad Greenway stuffed Matt Asiata in the starting offense, the second-team offense went zero for three with Ham and Pressley both shut out from the 2-yard line.
ALMOST PERFECT – Kicker Blair Walsh went 7 of 8 on field goal attempts in team sessions, missing a little left from 49 yards out. He then backed up and converted from 51 yards. Through six padded practices of camp, Walsh has been good in 22 of 24 attempts against the defense, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer confirmed. For a deep dive into the Vikings’ placekicking operation, read Mark Craig’s article from Sunday.
FILLING IN — A handful of tweaks were made to the lineup Saturday with starters held out or limited. Second-year linebacker Eric Kendricks has been one of a few standouts, but was forced out midway through practice with an apparent injury. He walked off under his own power and did not return. Audie Cole filled in for Kendricks as the base middle linebacker with Greenway taking his spot next to Anthony Barr in nickel sets. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was held out for the first time of camp, allowing third-year defensive tackle Shamar Stephen to get some extra reps. Joe Berger moved from center back to right guard as Brandon Fusco nurses an injury.
CAMP CHATTER – “Push him out!” — A Vikings coach to Smith after he lost track of the ball and allowed Rudolph’s touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone.
INJURY REPORT — Kendricks left midway through practice and did not return. Floyd, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (left shoulder), Fusco, fullback Zach Line and linebacker Edmond Robinson were sidelined. Floyd, missing his first practice, has worn a brace on his knee through camp. McKinnon (lower back) suited up, but did not take part in team drills.
ETC. – Vikings new right tackle Andre Smith was the Bengals’ third-most penalized player a season ago. He was flagged for a false start Saturday, continuing a pattern in camp. … Bridgewater opened a full team drill with a naked bootleg that caught the defense off guard. … Diggs dropped what could’ve been another deep connection with the starting quarterback. … Receiver Marken Michel tipped a pass that was intercepted by rookie safety Jayron Kearse.